"When you're cutting weight, you test yourself," Palaniuk said. "I learned how much I could push myself. If you're mentally strong, I believe your body will quit before your mind will. You get mentally conditioned. I'd be jogging (to cut weight), and I'd just pass out."
Most of us have never even taken that test – pushed ourselves that hard. But most of us have experienced how easy it is to go brain-dead after a long day of fishing when the fish aren't cooperating.
"If you're not into it 100 percent mentally, you're wasting your time," said Palaniuk. "I realized I was just going through the motions (on the Elite Series)."
"I was on top of the world," Palaniuk said. "I was thinking, 'Here's your ticket to the Classic.'
"Then I got that phone call at 10 o'clock, and all my hopes and dreams went down the drain. I didn't blink for an hour."
The phone call, as most Elite Series followers know, concerned whether or not he'd culled a bass while in Minnesota waters that day. Due to an unusual state regulation, it's illegal to cull after you have five bass in the livewell – just in Minnesota, not in the bordering state of Wisconsin. Palaniuk knew the rule, but didn't think he was in Minnesota when he made his single cull that day.
One of his fellow Elite Series anglers had reported the violation, and B.A.S.S. officials were required to check it out. After a thorough investigation, Palaniuk realized he'd been in violation. It was pointed out to him that he'd indeed been in Minnesota when he'd culled a fish – 100 yards over an unmarked state line in the middle of the Mississippi River. So his Day Two weight of 19 pounds, 3 ounces was disqualified — every last ounce of it, which dropped him down to 77th place and out of the Top 50 field for Saturday.
"I made one cull today – just one – in Minnesota, in an area that I believed was in Wisconsin," said Palaniuk. "It was Minnesota waters by less than 100 yards. I had 18 ½ pounds before I made that one cull that just cost me, possibly, $100 grand and a Classic berth."
Said Palaniuk later, "I'd have given up the $100,000 for a Classic berth."
And he also said, "I didn't blame (B.A.S.S. officials). I knew it was something they had to do."
Palaniuk handled the devastating DQ like a gentleman — the ultimate gentleman. In fact, Palaniuk may have won over more fans by the way he reacted to the dream-snatching than if he'd won the event.
But fans don't put you in the Bassmaster Classic. They can put you in the Elite Series All-Star event, where Palaniuk got the most votes this year. But to paraphrase Smokey the Bear, only YOU can create a Classic berth. If Palaniuk's mental strength had been in question before, his shoulders were now flat on the wrestling mat with his opponent in control.